Contractors working to clean up old Pittsburgh Cut Flower site in Richland
By Deborah Deasy
Published: Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
What smacks of a war zone now stretches beyond the chain link fence where crumbling greenhouses once lined Bakerstown Road in Richland.
It has been 10 months since Joe Pillart, 49, of Richland — co-owner of Mid-Atlantic Environmental Consultants — arrived to coordinate ongoing efforts by multiple contractors to clean up the asbestos-contaminated former site of Pittsburgh Cut Flower Co.
“Now that the greenhouses are down at the road, it's a beautiful sight — not having those 20 years of blight there,” said Chris Beichner, executive director of the nonprofit Allegheny Land Trust.
“It just opens up that view of the valley and the natural green space that exists down at the pond and below,” Beichner said.
After the cleanup is complete, Allegheny Land Trust, a nonprofit group, hopes to buy the property for $1.4 in grants and donations from Legacy Landings LLC, the land's current owners.
Beyond the view of passing motorists, more than a mile of bumpy dirt roads snake past the remnants of demolished and remaining structures in a jungle-like valley.
“There are a lot of flat tires on this job,” Pillart said, leading a tour of the valley from the driver's seat of his 5.7-liter Dodge Hemi pickup.
Pillart got into the environmental cleanup business after working on airplane fuel tanks as a tech sergeant in the 911th Aircraft Wing unit of the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command at Pittsburgh International Airport. Pillart also is a 1983 graduate of Deer Lakes High School with an associate degree in environmental science from the Community College of Allegheny County.
At the former home of Pittsburgh Cut Flower Co., only three of 12 original greenhouses still stand on the 180 acres that once yielded untold roses and other blooms.
“There were 10 acres of greenhouses,” said Beichner of the Allegheny Land Trust.
Allegheny Land Trust plans to eventually designate 150 acres of the property for passive recreation, and 30 acres for limited economic development.
Cleanup of the land might be done by December, according to Pillart.
“Just because the cleanup is complete does not mean that Allegheny Land Trust will go ahead and purchase it,” Beichner said. “We want to make sure the property is safe for the public to use in the future.”
Two Philadelphia-area firms — Agresta Construction of Cherry Hill, N.J., and Controlled Environmental Systems of Horsham Township, Montgomery County — are tearing down the site's crumbing structures.
The debris is going to a secure Waste Management landfill in West Sunbury, Butler County, that accepts hazardous waste.
“The steel is getting recycled and everything else is going out as hazardous waste,” Pillart said. “Castriota Metals is getting all the steel.”
Supervising all the heavy lifting are Walt Adams, 59, of South Philadelphia and Controlled Environmental Systems; and Shawn Speedwell, 50, of North Philadelphia and Agresta Construction.
After trucks carry away all the rubble, two to four inches of soil will be scraped off the surface of the demolition site, and also hauled away as hazardous waste.
When vandals broke into the site's greenhouses in March 2012 to steal copper and other metal for scrap, the intruders disturbed a lot of asbestos insulation around pipes in the site's greenhouses. “The asbestos was all over the pipes, and they were cutting up the pipes,” Pillart said.
Government official then designated the property as a contaminated site.
Before the vandalism occurred, the Pittsburgh Cut Flower Co. property was “just blighted and didn't look good,” Pillart said. “Everybody knew what was in there, but nobody wanted to buy it, because it needed cleaned up.
“Once the vandals went in there, and put asbestos all over the ground, government agencies had to take action,” Pillart said.
Overseeing the demolition and cleanup for the federal Environmental Protection Agency is Jocelyn Welshhans of TechLaw in Wheeling, W.Va.
“It's going pretty good,” she said about the cleanup.
Among her duties, Welshhans photographs the cleanup and watches to make sure that all workers wear hard hats, respirators and other protective clothing as they continue to demolish buildings and de-contaminate the property.
During the ongoing cleanup, Pillart continuously tests the site's air for traces of asbestos fibers.
Pillart monitors the air's asbestos level by microscopically viewing snipped pieces of air filters housed in containers attached to the chain link fence along the Bakerstown Road perimeter of the site.
“It's been very low,” Welshhans said about the airborne asbestos.
“Well below reportable quantities.”
Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- ‘Elf on the Shelf’ finds a home in Highcliff kindergarten class
- Ross film festival to feature ‘Looney Tunes’ short films
- No tax increase with new Shaler budget
- Poff students create art, jewelry for children in Haiti
- Hampton motel might have no vacancies — permanently
- Glenshaw church members’ generosity to benefit mothers in need
- Safety drives need for North Park trail improvements
- Children bring ‘The First Christmas’ to life at St. Richard Church
- Hampton Twp. budget proposal keeps taxes steady
- Holiday shines bright, inside and out, for Ross family
- Feast of the Holy Family planned for Glenshaw church